Trinity College Dublin has launched an initiative to increase its intake of students from Northern Ireland.

The historic institution has set itself a target of having 8% of its student body from Northern Ireland, which equates to 300 students a year.

Admissions from Northern Ireland have declined in recent years primarily due to entrance criteria that effectively limits successful applications to those who have done four A-levels.

As only one in every eight students in Northern Ireland elects to take on four A-levels, the pool from which it can attract candidates is much more limited than universities in the UK.

Trinity said its effort to increase intake was a reassertion of its historic mission to be a university for the whole island.

It has announced a feasibility study to find a new way of admitting A-level applicants from across the EU, which will be tested in the first instance in Northern Ireland.

Provost of Trinity Dr Patrick Prendergast said there was a need to reverse the decline in Northern Ireland students.

"Trinity has historically been a university for the whole island, attracting students with ability and potential from every county," he said.

"Unfortunately in the last few years our numbers from Northern Ireland have been in decline, and this has been a source of deep regret to our alumni, our students, our staff, and to me personally.

"With this feasibility study Trinity has acted to restore and re-establish a relationship that has done so much to build close links on this island between people from all backgrounds and traditions."

During the past year Trinity has embarked on an engagement programme, visiting schools and careers fairs across Northern Ireland with student ambassadors from the current study community, and has attempted to "reconnect" with schools, parents, teachers and alumni.

The feasibility study draws on that work by seeking to remove the four A-level obstacle.

For admissions in September next year, Trinity will admit a number of students from Northern Ireland looking purely at the best 3 A-levels of the applicant.

All courses with the exception of medicine are included but only a maximum of three students per course will be admitted using the new route.

The minimum grade requirement is A, B, B.